Foaming at the mouth and drooling are both characterised by the presence of excess amounts of saliva, I tend to define foaming at the mouth as saliva which is frothy, compared to drooling which is more watery. But both are used interchangeably.
What are the causes of foaming at the mouth in cats?
Nausea can cause excessive foaming of the mouth. Cats do vomit from time to time, but if your cat vomits more than once or if he is displaying other symptoms, do see a vet. Just like humans, cats can become car sick, which may result in drooling/foaming at the mouth due to the feeling of nausea. Other signs of nausea may include a loss of appetite and lethargy.
There are many causes of nausea including the following:
Motility disorders (abnormal movement of food in the gastrointestinal system)
Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
Pregnancy (morning sickness)
Bitter tasting substances – Oral and eye medications are a common cause of this as they often have a bitter taste to them. Eye medications such as atropine can also cause a cat to foam at the mouth as once administered into the eye the medications eventually reach the back of the throat, producing a distinct bitter taste in the mouth.
If the medication has been prescribed to your cat and administered as per instructions then there is little to worry about if foaming at the mouth is the only symptom, although it is always important to let your veterinarian know. Offer your cat a small meal or a treat after he’s had his medication to help get rid of the bitter taste. If this becomes a problem for you or your cat, you can ask your veterinarian about having the medication compounded. Compounding medication can give it a more pleasant flavour such as tuna, which is more palatable for your cat. Or the medication can be in liquid form instead of tablet form. Basically, compounding can make it easier to administer certain medications to your cat.
Poisoning – There are so many potential hazards out there and cats are particularly vulnerable. Look out for other symptoms of poisoning such as confusion, ataxia (wobbly gait), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy. If your cat displays any of these symptoms, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Spot on flea treatments – If they are applied in an area your cat can lick, the unpleasant taste can cause excess drooling, foaming. So make sure you always apply it to the back of the neck. Be aware, that cats are extremely sensitive to a lot of the chemicals used in dog flea treatments. If you have recently treated your dog and notice your cat is foaming at the mouth, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Seizures – The result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, a seizure will usually be accompanied by other symptoms such as twitching muscles, involuntary vocalisation, a rigidity of the limbs, loss of consciousness, champing.
Dental problems – There are a number of problems that can affect the mouth including a broken tooth, gum disease, and stomatitis. Common symptoms of dental problems may include loss of appetite, bad breath, and pain around the mouth.
Rabies is a fatal viral infection caused by the “rhabdovirus”. In the late stages of this disease foaming at the mouth can occur. Rabies is a relatively rare disease in cats, most cats in the US have been vaccinated for rabies, and thankfully it doesn’t occur in Australia or the UK.
Any time you notice your cat foaming at the mouth, look for other symptoms he may be displaying. Ask yourself, has he recently had any medication, is it possible he has got into something he shouldn’t have? If you are in any doubt whatsoever, seek veterinary attention.
If your cat is drooling after administration of a medication prescribed, call your vet for advice, but the chances are that it is just in response to the bitter taste and aside from it being unpleasant, and your cat possibly not getting the full dose, he will be okay.
Apart from the above, is always safest to err on the side of caution and see a veterinarian if your cat is foaming at the mouth. As many causes are serious, he will need to evaluate your cat. If your cat has ingested any medication, flea treatment or poison bring along the packaging, or a sample if possible, for your veterinarian to look at.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will need to ask some questions such as any recent medication your cat has been given, has he possibly consumed something he shouldn’t have as well as any underlying medical conditions your cat has and other symptoms you have noticed.
How is the cause of foaming at the mouth diagnosed?
Complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis which will give your veterinarian an overall picture of your cat’s health including how the organs are functioning.
Depending on his index of suspicion he may need to perform additional tests to determine the cause. This may include diagnostic imaging of the internal organs, as well as specific blood tests.
What is the treatment for a cat who is foaming at the mouth?
Nausea is a symptom and not a disease itself, so determining the cause and treating is necessary. Anti-nausea medications may be prescribed to relieve nausea.
Bitter tasting medications can be compounded by a compounding pharmacy to make them more palatable to cats.
Poisoning – Treatment varies depending on the poison ingested as well as when it was consumed. Inducing vomiting, stomach lavage or activated charcoal may be used to prevent further absorption of toxins. Supportive care such as IV fluids may also be given.
Topical flea products – Usually cats foam at the mouth if they ingest a small amount of topical flea products. This should resolve quickly. Give your cat some water or food try and help him wash away the taste. These products should always be applied between the shoulders so that your cat can’t lick it off. Never use topical products for dogs on your cat as these are extremely toxic. If you have applied a dog product onto your cat, or recently treated your dog and your cat has possibly ingested some of the product, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Seizures – These should be treated by a veterinarian who will determine the underlying cause and administer medications to help control the seizures.
Dental problems – These are treated on a case by case basis. In some cats, a clean and scale are all that will be required, but sometimes the affected tooth is so badly damaged that removal will be necessary. This is performed under general anesthetic.
Rabies – There is no treatment for rabies.
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